SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 08: Stephen Crichton of the Panthers celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the round 13 NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and the Canberra Raiders at Panthers Stadium on August 08, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Canterbury are on the hunt to complete a hat-trick of signings from Penrith for 2023, locking their targets on Stephen Crichton to join Cameron Ciraldo and Viliame Kikau at Belmore.

The Panthers' nightmares are slowly shifting to reality, the reported loss of Ciraldo to the Bulldogs for the 2023 season has started snowballing into the incumbent assistant coach beginning to recruit for Canterbury - right out of his own back yard.

Kikau announced his departure in early 2022 following a leaked image of Phil Gould, then-coach Trent Barrett and Kikau all donning Bulldogs polo shirts at the Canterbury Leagues Club.

Currently under contract for 2023, Crichton will be free to talk to rival clubs from November 1st this year, despite reports earlier this year that Penrith had locked him up for the next few seasons, and Canterbury appear to be first in line for his services.

The news follows reports earlier this week that the Panthers are in real danger of losing Liam Martin and Charlie Staines for 2023 following a salary cap squeeze, meaning it could come down to choosing between Crichton or Martin for next season.

There were rumours the Dolphins may make a play for the centre, however the Bulldogs would appear short-priced favourites to land his prized signature, should he depart the foot of the mountains.

Crichton, who struggled in his maiden Origin series, is on a reported 600K per season as it stands, a number the Bulldogs would have to up considerably to snare the Blue - especially if he plays at fullback.

While no decision will be made before the end of this season, don't be surprised if Ciraldo gives the premiership-winning back a few quiet nudges here and there over the next two months.